Catching up on comics (part three)
A while back I did a Violent Blue strip where i mentioned that The Lone Ranger from Dynamite comics was one of the best books being published. That’s still true, even though I’ve missed a bunch of issues. They restarted the numbering after the hiatus and it’s thrown me off, but “Hard Country” was a perfect example of everything I love about this book. The Ranger is more established in these stories now, and his reputation precedes him. That makes him a little more familiar to the reader as well. We’re past the learning curve arcs. “Hard Country” is a set of mostly self contained stories with a two parter on the back end. It’s a great place to jump on for folks who haven’t been reading the book and if you haven’t I really recommend that you do.
This book is the first time I’ve seen someone get the Lone Ranger right….the first time I’ve seen it since the TV series in the 50’s. That’s a lot of water under the bridge huh? The problem over the years has been that every writer wants to deconstruct him, and reimagined his relationship with Tonto in a way that’s more politically correct – even adversarial. No one wants to see that. The Lone Ranger is like Superman. We want a pure, noble hero. dynamite gives us that, while at the same time expanding the mythos. They have given us more to look at, a better understanding of where the silver bullets come from, how The ranger relates to his lost brother’s wife, how he lives and a bit more depth to the characterization. They do this all without trying to drag him down. I love these books.
The “Death of Zorro” series has been surprisingly great as well. It didn’t necessarily have to be. Crossing over The Lone Ranger and Zorro was going to sell books one way or another, but the ideas they have presented here work well. It’s particularly interesting to see the Ranger’s father in this series and how he was helped by Zorro. I’m still missing the last two issues of that series, but I’m comfortable singing it’s praises as it is.
Suicide Squad is another story altogether. I was excited about this book coming back as a regular series. Hopeful even. There’s enough of a fan base I think, to keep it afloat if DC really puts some effort into it. And that’s where we find our problem.
Remember last week when I was complaining about Image’s Bloodstrike? How they stripped it of everything that made it fun? Much the same is happening here. One of the things that has always made Suicide Squad interesting is the bureaucracy. It’s always been a part of the book, even during that brief run by Keith Giffen that everyone seems to have disowned. The bureaucracy was INTERESTING. It was years before we’d see it become the norm in the 90’s Image books. It was new and different. Interesting to see Waller as the liaison dealing with the psychiatrists, the prison Warden, and guards and the Chaplin. Interesting to see the intrigue as she deals with Washington politicians and intelligence. Fascinating to explore the relationships between the normal people and the super powered convicts. All of this has been stripped. It’s pretty much Waller as the only symbol of authority. The only “good guy” in the room.
That’s another problem. The Suicide Squad as it existed in ’88 consisted of both heroes and villains. The heroes were perhaps a bit shady, Bronze Tiger being a reformed villain and Vixen being a bit of an outcast. But it provided a better balance. The villains, were by and large, sociopathic. Really bad folks. They were familiar names; Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Poisen Ivy, Count Vertigo, Doctor Light. Characters you’d seen beaten in other titles but never given any real character development. Before, they were merely foils. In John Ostrander’s hands, they became truly scary, and you realized they didn’t have a sense of right or wrong. THAT’s what made them evil. Not robbing banks or kidnapping the mayor’s daughter. These familiar faces would kill anyone and do anything as long as it suited their plans.
All of that is gone. It’s just a bunch of cardboard cutouts now. These characters are just the colorful foils they always were in the superhero books and Suicide Squad is far less interesting because of it. particularly when it comes to Waller and Deadshot.
Deadshot is now the leader of the suicide squad and he’s portrayed as a bit of a go getter. The soldier type. His death wish is gone, his attitude. Someone at DC seems to have decided that Deadshot is popular and he should be the main character in the book, but they failed to understand WHY he was popular. Ostrander created great depth with Deadshot, exploring his relationships, his family and his pathology. He wasn’t a hero. He didn’t want to be. Gail Simone picked up on this when she was writing Secret Six and ran with it. There’s a lot to Floyd Lawton, and still more that could be explored, but this guy in the new 52 universe isn’t him. He’s just your standard not-quite-a-hero type and far less interesting.
Everything about her that was unique, everything that was special has been thrown out. A pretty, young secret agent with an attitude and a mouth? What’s special about that? What is there to this character that I haven’t seen a thousand times in any other comic book or TV show? Amanda Waller was fascinating in the past because she was a middle aged tough as nails strong black woman.She had wisdom and determination. There was a good deal of amorality to her, though not quite enough to push her towards sociopathology. She knew the game that politics was and played it as well as anyone. She pulled her self up from the mud by her own bootstraps and BUILT this life for herself….and she did that after her kids were grown. This young chippy that’s running around with the huge rack and thin waist calling herself Amanda Waller isn’t half the person pre-52 Waller was. Nor will she grow into the role. She doesn’t have the requisite adversity to overcome. Someone explain to me what it was that NEEDED to be changed or updated about this character. Come on. I dare you.
It’s been 12 issues now. You had your chance DC. I’m dropping this book…..something I’ve NEVER done with a series called Suicide Squad.
Grifter has changed a bit, gradually over the years. Not a huge amount, if you were to pick up an early WildCATS book and a current Grifter, you’d notice some differences, but not enough to be unrecognizable. Slow as they were, they’ve been almost unnoticeable. The biggest one I’ve seen is his recently developed Telekinesis. That’s not as big a deal to me as I may have expected. When the TK and other Psi abilities started to really show up with Cable, it didn’t change the character that much. He was still all about the guns and strategy. If DC takes this approach with Grifter, it’ll be just fine.
Grifter isn’t a great book. It doesn’t aspire to be. It’s a solid, average series, and it always has been. That may be it’s strentgth. It’s never been Sandman, but then again, it’s also never been Great Lakes Avengers either. I can be confident that if I pick this up I’ll be entertained. I always empty Grifters out of bargain bins at comic shops and cons, and I pick them up off t he racks here and there. When I think about it. Every few months. No biggie. Please new 52 DCU, don’t screw this one up.
Finally, I revisited Dynamite’s The Shadow. I pretty much nailed it when I said Ennis seemed to have a heavy Chaykin influence. He admits as much here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/02/14/the-shadow-interview-garth-ennis-knows-what-evil-lurks-in-the-hearts-of-men/ Which is fine. I have that series. I even like it, but it’s far from my favorite. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by all the other versions. I far prefer the O’Neil one from the 70’s, even the Klauta work for Dark Horse. Honestly I even prefer the poorly done movie to Chaykins version (Check out Klauta’s comic adaptions of that by the way, it’s actually superior to the film and manages to fix a lot of the movies issues without compromising the story – but I digress). Back when I was 12, and Chaykin was the only game in town I enjoyed it more.
Still, I’m going to stick with this for a while. Kevin Smith didn’t really hit his stride on The Green Hornet until issue seven or eight, and after he left in issue twelve, the series improved further still. I want to see the next story arc on the Shadow, hopefully we’ll be back in New York battling the mob. Ennis talks about the “potential” of the character. I believe in that as well. Lets see where it takes us.